Dontrelle Willis, that’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile. Well, he’s hoping you’ll be hearing it more often in the very near future.
Nicknamed the D-Train, the Oakland, CA native has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers that comes with an invitation to big league spring training.
Willis, now 33, was once on of Major League Baseball’s brightest young stars. He was Rookie of the Year in 2003. He was also elected to the National League All-Star team and took home a World Championship ring with the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins.
He went 14-6 in 27 starts and posted a 3.30 ERA in his first big league season. He wavered in the NLDS and NLCS but didn’t allow a hit in the World Series.
His numbers dipped in 2004 but he bounced back in 2005, making his second, and only other, All-Star appearance and finished second in the N.L. Cy Young Award voting. He won a league leading 22 games while also leading the league with seven complete games, two of which were shutouts.
Willis was fun to watch with his unconventional delivery and smile that could light up a room. He seemed to be back on the path to stardom but it didn’t last long. He went 12-12 in 2006 with 3.87 ERA but he had problems with his control, hitting a league high 19 batters.
Things continued to go downhill for Willis post 2006. He never posted an ERA under 4.00 again. In his final season in Florida Willis led the league in earned runs, allowing 118.
He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in December 2007 as part of the Miguel Cabrera trade. During his two and a half years with the Tigers, Willis posted a 9.38 ERA in 2008 and a 7.49 ERA in 2009 prior to being put on the disabled list because of an anxiety disorder.
Detroit traded Willis to the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 1, 2010. They released him by July 6th of the same year. He signed that season with the San Francisco Giants but never played in the big leagues.
He signed with the Cincinnati Reds in November 2010 and went 1-6 in 13 starts with a 5.00 ERA. He played his last big league game with the Reds in 2011.
He was once again granted free agency. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies who later released him and then with the Baltimore Orioles from whom he voluntarily retired in July 2012.
His first retirement did not last long. He attempted to comeback with the Orioles that same season but was released by October. He went on to sign minor league deals with a string of other teams including the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim and the San Francisco Giants where he was either granted free agency or released.
He also spent 2013 playing in the Atlantic League with the Long Island Ducks, where he found a bit of success being named to the Atlantic League’s All-Star team.
Willis is now attempting another comeback with the Brewers. Whether or not Willis’ control problems had to do with his anxiety disorder or his funky delivery no one knows. But we’ll know whether or not he’s fixed whatever issues he’s been dealing with come March.